Cable Operators

TV Vet Preps Wellness Channel

1/11/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

TV-industry executive Mark Goldman is tapping into the nation's heightened awareness about health and well-being as he looks to launch a multiplatform programming service, including a linear cable channel.

Goldman, whose career has included executive positions at MCA/Universal Television, Sky Latin America and most recently as the founding chief operating officer of Al Gore's Current Media, is eyeing a fourth-quarter rollout or an early 2011 bow for BE Network.

Goldman, who has held preliminary rounds of discussions with distributors this year, points toward the senescent U.S. population and “societal shifts toward wellness and well-being as part of Americans' everyday lives. The World Health Organization said 75% of U.S. households are looking to natural remedies as part of their health regimens.”

He said the trends and the billions of dollars spent on attendant products in this arena have been accelerated by the health-care debate and legislative movement in 2009.

If Goldman is taking aim at America's interest in the subject, his idea was born in the United Kingdom, where he said lifestyles channel Body In Balance has gained a fairly sizeable audience of affluent females by running, among other things, a loop of DVD yoga material.

Aimed mainly at women aged 30 to 65, Goldman said BE will proffer a wider swath of content focusing on various aspects of healthy living, including yoga and dance, nutrition, alternative healing, holistic medicine, stress reduction, beauty, anti-aging and more. During the daytime, the network will present informational and instructional fare, while primetime is expected to center on remaking primetime formats “to help people be well.”

The common thread: an Eastern-based realization and rejuvenation philosophy, which asserts the keys to success, happiness and health already lie within all of us.

The network has signed a long list of prominent talent in the space, including: John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga, whose teachers have hundreds of thousands of students; Maya Fiennes, a star musician, yogi and TV personality in Europe and the sister in law of actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, whose celebrity clientele includes Elle Macpherson and Deepak Chopra; The New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Alejandro Junger, whose “open-minded medicine” practice has attracted Gwyneth Paltrow and other A-list celebrities; Dr. Timothy Brantley, whose research and years of work on nutritional healing is outlined in the book The Cure; and Sophie Keller who provides practical tips for a happier life on Web site The Huffington Post and local news outlets.

BE has filmed segments with these and other personalities, some video of which will be available when its Web site, currently in beta, goes live in late January.

While Discovery Communications' Planet Green touches on parts of this world and OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is also expected to venture there to some extent when it premieres in January 2011, Goldman cited the popularity of such syndicated fare as The Doctors and The Dr. Oz Show as encouraging as he looks to launch the service. At the same time, he's well aware of a failed predecessor in the space.

“Yes, I'm quite familiar with Lime. It's a word that came up often with distributors, and I've spent a lot of time studying it,” said Goldman, referring to the multiplatform service that was created late in 2005, when AOL founder Steve Case's Revolution investment firm bought Wisdom TV.

The environmental TV network was shuttered in February 2007 and Revolution sold it to online-content outfit Gaiam that August Billed as “healthy living with a twist,” Lime.com lives on.

Goldman said that Lime didn't resonate because there were issues of timing, relative to the wellness movement, and of execution on the network side.

Armed with a growing block of content, Goldman will make another round of visits to prospective carriers in the months ahead. At this stage, he's funding the network personally. He's confident he will be able to find support: Over the course of his career, Goldman said he has helped build media companies, raising nearly $1 billion in capital in the process.

Aside from touching on an underserved arena that will feature high-definition programming aimed at affluent women, distributors may want to be or not be in business with BE over its e-commerce component that will enable carriers to share in the revenue produced by the sale of products from the personalities appearing on the service.

Asked about on-demand as a launching pad, Goldman acknowledged that some of our programming is well-suited to the video-on-demand format, but “that's just part of the puzzle. I'm not naive about the challenges of the tough linear environment, but our content and model is as good as anybody's out there.”

September